I learned something this week that might tell us something about the difference between American phonics teaching and British phonics teaching while I was working on one of the pages of my website, Explaining Split Vowel Digraphs.

The British are Coming!

It was already a pretty good entrance page for my site but after I finished the tweaking, traffic began to grow from search engine results, so I was checking it out more closely. To my surprise, about 75% of the people entering the site via that page were coming from England! Apparently the English use the term split digraph much more than we Americans do. Here "Silent-e" and "Magic-e" seem to be preferred.

Personally, as I explain on that particular page on my site, I think the British are being more sensible because all letters are silent, and the word magic has one meaning to a child, i.e., you'll find this amazing but you won't understand how it can be. Heck of a connotation to relay to a six-year-old when trying to explain a concept, no? Especially when it's quite easy to explain to such a child how split vowel digraphs operate and to do so at the level I call the "kid-logic" level.

Now If Only the Americans Would Follow

Someday I hope to pick up search engine hits on "Silent-e" and/or "Magic-e" also, possibly due to my including in the full title of the page the phrase (Avoid "Magic-e" or "Silent-e"), so that American parents and teachers will also easily find the information I share on that particular page. In any case, I think the British have the better approach.

In fact, I think it's telling that when you Google either "silent-e" or "magic-e" you get pages and pages of songs, games, and colorful worksheets. All this to explain that the digraph ie in words like pie and tie, or the oe in words like toe and doe, is split in words like pipe, tile, tone, and dome, with the ending sound being tucked into the gap between them. The "e" in pipe is no more silent than is the "e" in pie; it's just part of the digraph representing the /ie/ sound in both cases, and it certainly isn't magical.

Two Questions

For British readers: Is the term split digraph (or split vowel digraph) preferred over silent-e and magic-e, or just used along with them?

For American readers, particularly teachers, but also parents: Any interesting stories to share about how some children misinterpret either the silent-e or magic-e concepts?